Today’s blog post is written by Sarah Kruhlak, Customer Support Representative at Conversica.
Let me just start by saying that I am writing this post from a position that I never thought I’d be in: approaching the six month mark as a Technical Support Representative at a company that specializes in software. I’m a English major, who has always had dreams of writing fiction, and more recently has aspired to work as a technical writer, so needless to say that Technical Support Representative was nowhere near the top of my list. Because six months ago I would have described myself as “not a computer person”.
So here’s the story of how I got this job, and why I’ve come to realize in the last six months that not only is someone with my background an excellent fit for this kind of a position, but why more Humanities majors should apply for jobs like it, and why hiring managers should look for applicants with these kinds of qualifications.
I graduated from Western Washington University almost two years ago. My first year, I worked as a manager at a pizza place, using it to save up money so I could take a big European trip before I got my first “adult” job. After getting back from Europe, I procrastinated really looking for new jobs, because honestly job hunting is exhausting and takes a lot out of you. I interviewed at two different places who were looking for writers, but after not hearing back from either of them, I chalked it up to not having enough professional experience working as a writer.
Finding entry-level jobs, even with a resume that has plenty of internship and customer service experience on it, can be frustrating, and I was really discouraged for a while. What also made it difficult was wanting to stay in Whatcom County. I am a native of Bellingham, Washington, and I’ve always known I wanted to stay. Almost everyone I spoke to told me that I’d have much more luck finding a job in my field if I relocated to somewhere like Seattle or Portland, but I’ve always known big city life isn’t for me, and I’m happiest staying in Bellingham.
Then someone gave me a piece of advice that really changed my perspective. All this time I’d been searching Linkedin and Indeed.com for jobs that included the term “writer” or “editor” and often came up with nothing at all. However, one day my mother gave me an excellent piece of advice: instead of searching for the job you want, search for a company that you’d like to work for. They might not have a writing position open at the moment, but everyone needs a writer at some point, and those kinds of positions are often filled internally.
With that advice in mind, I revamped my job search, looking instead for entry-level office positions at local companies that seemed to have a good environment. The first one I applied to was Faithlife, but that one didn’t work out. It was shortly after that I discovered Conversica. I remembered hearing a presentation from a few of its employees back when I was at Western, and I also recalled both of the women saying that they were Humanities majors, but really enjoyed working in the technology field.
Conversica had a few interesting positions open, but I ended up applying for the one titled “Customer Support Representative”. There was another one open for “Technical Support Representative”, but I didn’t even open that one up, because once again I did not consider myself someone who was “tech savvy”. I later found out that both of those positions, though the titles are slightly different, had exactly the same job description. That is one of the tactics that my boss, Lauren, uses when hiring because it expands the range of applicants to different types of people.
After being hired and during my first month at Conversica, I definitely got a taste of why this position is called “Technical Support”, because even though there is lots of customer support, and my years working in customer service definitely came in handy, I felt a bit like I was drowning in a sea of technical knowledge that I needed to know but didn’t feel prepared for. And, of course, it didn’t help that the coworker I was hired with seemed to pick it up much quicker than I did.
But as time wore on, it all started to come together, though I definitely learn something new every day, which is one of my favorite parts of this job. However, it wasn’t until recently that I started to realize what it was about my background as a writer, a Humanities major, that really makes me a great, unique fit for this position.
Writers, technical writers in particular, have to be good translators. Oftentimes technical writing is just translating what one person says or writes into something that a general audience can understand. For example, you wouldn’t necessarily want the engineer who built the microwave to write the instruction manual on how use the microwave, because they would tend to explain it how they understand it, and not in the way that a standard user would understand it. Technical writers build the bridge between. And I feel that is exactly what I do in my job as a Technical Support Representative. I am required to understand our product and how it works, and I explain our product in a way that our clients understand it, and that is something that makes a lot of sense to me, as someone trained in technical writing.
When I got my degree in English and writing, I always got the impression that it was sort of a useless degree for someone who wanted to be a teacher in the long run, but it’s what I loved, so I did it anyway. I never imagined that this degree would help me get a job in the technology industry, or that I would feel comfortable working in this kind of environment as someone who specialized in the Humanities.
In the end, I think that lots of different types of Humanities majors have a place in the technology industry, not just writers. Humanities majors have to be creative, they have to be interested in learning and exploring, they think outside of the box, they are able to “wear several different hats”, as it were.
In conclusion, I say to hiring managers: take a chance on that history major, I promise you that they’re hardworking and studious. And to all all of those Humanities majors out there that feel as if your degree choice limits your career options: take a leap of faith and apply for something that sounds interesting to you, find a company that you like and take the plunge into something new and exciting. Because technology is the industry of the future, and I promise that you’ll find someone out there that will see something in you that you may not even see in yourself.